Warning: Now For Something A Little Different


Hopefully, these pics of chapulines don’t scare anyone off.

Because that would be a shame.

Pan-fried grasshoppers seasoned with lime, salt, and red chile might be what gets people buzzing about the new Mezcal restaurant, 25 W. San Fernando in downtown San Jose. But what will keep them coming back are the luscious moles served here with style and graciousness.

The airy restaurant with an industrial chic vibe specializes in Oaxacan cuisine.  It was opened a month ago by Oaxacan native, Adolfo Gomez, who was formerly operations manager at the Silicon Valley Capital Club.

After you are seated, servers bring warm, fresh-fried chips but not salsa to your table. Instead, you get a small sampler of three moles — negro, coloradito and estofado — to satisfy your curious taste buds right off the bat. They’re all wonderful, particulary the inky, rich negro with its flavors of bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon and chiles.

Our server said the grasshopper appetizer is ordered by almost every table. So, naturally, when I went there for lunch today, I had to order them, too. It didn’t hurt that I was dining with three guys, all former colleagues, who were more than game to eat bugs with me.

By the way, I should acknowledge that I am a veteran insect eater.

By choice.

Well, sort of.

You see, when you’re a food writer and your editor suggests you get a visiting insect specialist who cooks with bugs to make you something to try, well, you can’t say “no.” Not really.

So years ago, I wrote a story in the San Jose Mercury News, about the time I ate bees. Luckily, they were in a cake. And even more fortunately, they were pulverized into the batter, so you really wouldn’t have known they were there.

As for the taste? I couldn’t distinguish bee notes, necessarily. To me, it just tasted like one of those vegan-type cakes, where the taste is a bit bland and the texture too gummy.

So today, it was on to grasshoppers. Imported ones from Oaxaca, to be exact. About three dozen or more tiny ones arrived in a bowl along with tortilla chips and guacamole. I tried one grasshopper solo first. The tang from the lime juice really came through, with just a whisper of spice. Beyond that, it was all in the texture — crunchy, papery, a little like the crispiest bits of a phyllo pastry.

Barry tried one, and called it a day, while Ken, De, and I probably ate six each with dollops of guacamole. The leftovers got wrapped up and delivered to Brandon, back at the office on deadline to write a story. He later emailed me, pronouncing them ”great!”

Which just goes to show you never know sometimes what you will like eating. Insects may not be a food of choice for us, but for many destitute communities, it’s a valued and easy source of protein. For us, it may be a mere novelty. But it’s one that’s surely eye-opening, thought-provoking, and palate-awakening.

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Date: Tuesday, 13. January 2009 16:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: General, New Products, Restaurants

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20 comments

  1. 1

    How brave of you! We can just imagine that first crrrrunch…!

  2. 2

    I ate a bug once at the Orange County Fair. It wasn’t bad, but not as good as the Donsuemore madeleines you recommended. I’m now an official madeleine convert.

  3. 3

    Hey, I snuck a second one, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I wasn’t.

  4. 4

    Ooooh, interesting! I’ve eaten ants (a highly-prized source of Vitamin C if you get the ones that are going up the tree carrying nectar to the rest of the troops) in a rainforest in Queensland, Australia. Not sure how I’d feel initially about the inescapable legginess of a grasshopper, but en-robed in guacamole? Why the heck not :-)

  5. 5

    Susan, I concur. I was surprised that I liked the grasshoppers. But alas, they have nothing on a great cookie.

    OK, Carroll: I’ll bite; are the nectar-laden ants sweeter-tasting than their barren brothers?

  6. 6

    I tried this recently with nothing but lime and salt and I liked it. Never tried bees, though, although I’ve probably had a few without realizing it.

  7. 7

    For sure, that’s different ;-P! You were very courageous!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  8. 8

    Most people won’t want to eat bugs but “what will keep them coming back are the luscious moles served here.”

    Oh. You mean that mo-lay. :)

    This sounds great. Have to try this. I loooove mole and haven’t sound a top notch mole in our area in many years.

  9. 9

    One thing you can say about that show “Bizarre Foods” with Andrew Zimmern is that bug eating is not so strange a concept in America now.

    Will have to check this place out. For the moles, but not necessarily the bugs.

  10. 10

    Sorry, haven’t yet figured out how to make the accent mark on this computer. ;)

    But yes, you mole lovers (that’s the sauce, not the critter), also might want to check out Oaxacan Kitchen in Palo Alto. It’s a tiny place that puts out some big-tasting food, particularly some wonderful moles. They also sell at the downtown Palo Alto farmers market. http://www.theoaxacankitchen.com/

  11. 11

    i’d eat it…hehehe–vegan type cakes. yep that’s a good synonym for tasteless, vegan :)

  12. 12

    A couple words, if I may…

    1. Like Moe, I thought the worst when you said mole! After all, your post is about bugs and unconventional eating. But Oaxacan Mole is so much better than that furry creature the mole. I feel relieved. :)

    2. You’ve reconfirmed for me why I couldn’t be a food critic. If my boss said I had to eat a bug for work, I don’t know what I’d do!!!! Eat it is not one of the scenarios!

    3. I bet at this restaurant if you find a bug in your soup or whatever dish you order, you can’t complain to the waiter and get a free dessert. What a shame!

  13. 13

    Marni, you kill me. Hah!

  14. 14

    We saw an add for Mezcal in the Metro a few weeks back and commented that we needed to try the place. We had no idea about the fried grasshoppers, it’s to the top of the list to try now! As for the Oaxacan Kitchen in Palo Alto, I feel so bad I haven’t gone there yet as the owners are relatives of some good friends.

  15. 15

    If I can eat fried shrimp head, I can certainly try eating some fried grasshoppers.

  16. 16

    I made this comment before and I will keep telling this to my self until I have myself some grasshoppers! If I can eat friend shrimp head, I can certainly try eating some fried grasshoppers.

  17. 17

    Such delicacy was my mom’s (half-Thai) and my Thai sister-in-law’s favourite. I’d seen BBQ grasshoppers,etc. I’d been to Thailand before and I’d seen plates or baskets of them, cooked or alive… LOL. But am not game enough to try it… maybe I’d seen too much in my home :-D

    I agreed with Marni on her statement no. 3 LOL

    Shrimp heads? No problemo for me though… :-P

    You have such intesresting site, keep it up. It’s so informative and wonderful recipes!

  18. 18

    Pixen, I didn’t realize they were a Thai specialty, too. How interesting!
    Well, you could think of a grasshopper as just a leggy version of a shrimp head. ;)

  19. 19

    Wow that is unusual.. I’ve been watching Bizarre Foods almost religiously lately and it has me looking at the little critters in pet stores in a different light.

  20. 20

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